FDNY Brooklyn Box 4080: 17 Vandalia Avenue 12.18.1998

FDNY Brooklyn Box 4080: 17 Vandalia Avenue 12.18.1998

Take a moment to look back at an incident: On December 18, 1998, Three FDNY Firefighters died in-the line of duty while conducting suppression and rescue operations at  fire on the tenth floor of 10-story high-rise apartment building for the elderly.  At 0454 hours Brooklyn transmitted box 4080 for a top floor fire at 17 Vandalia Avenue in the Starrett City development complex. The sprawling complex is located on Brooklyn’s south shore in the Spring Creek section. The 10 story 50 x 200 fireproof building is used as a senior citizen’s residence. Engine 257 and ladder 170, both quartered in Canarsie, were assigned 1st due and arrived within 4 minutes. By that time the fire already could be seen blowing through two windows. Second and 3rd alarms were quickly transmitted.

As the 1st due Ladder Company, L170′s duty is to search the fire floor. Lieutenant Joseph Cavalieri, and fire fighters Christopher Bopp and James Bohan ascended 10 flights of stairs with extinguishers and forcible entry tools. Their mission was to rescue the resident of apartment 10-D who was believed trapped inside.

NIOSH INVESIGATIVE REPORT SUMMARY (F99-01) On December 18, 1998, several fire companies and fire fighters responded at 0454 hours to a reported fire on the tenth floor of a 10-story high-rise apartment building for the elderly. The fire had been burning for 20 to 30 minutes before it was called in because the resident attempted to put the fire out with small pans of water. As the fire fighters approached the building from the rear, an orange glow was observed in the window of Apartment 10D. As the fire fighters were arriving in front of the high-rise, a call was received from Central Dispatch that a female resident in the apartment next door to the fire apartment was trapped in her apartment and needed help. Several fire fighters entered the lobby area, and some took the stairs to the ninth floor, while others took the elevator to the ninth floor. A Lieutenant and two fire fighters on Ladder 170 (the victims), along with the Lieutenant on Engine 290, took the B-stairs from the ninth floor to the tenth floor, and entered the hallway, in search of the fire, while 4 fire fighters on Engine 290 were flaking out the hose line on the ninth floor and in the stairwell between the ninth and tenth floor in preparation for hookup.

During this same time period, other fire fighters had gone to the tenth floor A-stairwell landing to attempt a hose line hookup to the standpipe in the landing. Engine Company 257 fire fighters, who were attempting to make a hook-up on the fire floor landing, experienced trouble with the heat, heavy smoke, and heavy insulation on the standpipe and were forced to abandon this hook-up. The Lieutenant on Engine 290 and the victims, who were on the B-side, were approaching the center smoke doors (see diagram), when the Lieutenant radioed his driver on the outside, and asked, “Where is the fire?”

The driver radioed back, the fire is in the rear, towards exposure 4. The Lieutenant on Engine 290 then left the tenth floor, descended the stairs to the ninth floor and helped his men drag the hose to the A-stairwell, where they met up with fire fighters on Engine 257, who assisted them in stretching their line and hook-up on the ninth floor. The victims proceeded through the center smoke doors in search of the fire. From the information obtained during this investigation, it is believed the victims found the fire apartment, with the door partially opened, allowing smoke and hot gases to enter the hallway. They then opened the door fully, the wind pushed the fire and extreme heat in the apartment into the hallway, and a flashover occurred, exposing the victims to extreme radiant heat that potentially elevated their body core temperature.

The last radio transmission from the victims was a Mayday call. When the victims were found, all were unresponsive, they were treated at the scene and taken to the hospital where they were pronounced dead by the attending physician.

This wind-driven fire event and the lessons-learned contributed directly to the current body of research and new insights on emerging strategies and tactics. The NIOSH Investigative Report HERE.  NIST References on Wind Driven Fire Research HERE . FDNewYork.com HERE. New York Times Archived Articles, HERE and HERE. Photos and legacy, HERE

Take the time to remember FDNY Lt. Joseph Cavaleiri, FF Christopher Bopp and Firefighter James Bohan from Ladder 170

Filed Under: Anatomy of BuildingsFeaturedFire Dynamics & BehaviorIn the Streets


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